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by Gentle JoJo Fletcher 7 months ago in Short Story
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Open Mic Night

I saw his face, and I knew, I was a liar. My heart was cracked in half. Nothing that I had told myself was true.

He was just sitting at the table having coffee, but I couldn't stop staring at his hands. They were – well – unusual. And that's all I'm going to say. But I remembered what it was to be touched like that, and I wanted to cry.

I had a paper in my hand. I was going to read. It was open mic night, after all. My broken heart was inscribed with pencil on a lined sheet. I was going to be so defiant. I was not afraid of being alone. I was never going to fall in love again. I was going to talk about my reasons to live, scraped together off the floor of my divorce, like crumbs in a dustpan. I was going to be so brave that night, but one look at him and I crumpled the paper into a little ball and forgot about giving my name to the host.

He looked up at me and smiled. It was crowded. I either sat with him at his table or I was going to be left standing. He gestured at the empty seat. I sat.

“I'm Teddy,” he said kindly. “Are you going to read tonight?”

I shook my head and squeezed the paper a bit tighter in my fist. “No, I'm just here to meet people.” I admitted. “I'm newly single.” The words felt dragged out of me, but I wouldn't dare lie to him.

He glanced at my hand where the corners of the sheet stuck out, as if he had already seen me come in with a piece of writing, but he didn't challenge me.

They called my name and I went and picked up my hot chocolate. As I came back to my seat at his table, they were announcing the first participant and it turned out to be Teddy. He took the microphone and spoke as if he was thinking these thoughts for the first time. He had no notes or papers.

He looked right at me, and grinned and his voice took the cringing, bitter words out of my mouth and put them into the busy café. I heard my own anguish played back to me like a recording, only the poetry was better than mine. I could never have said it like that.

“It's just words, and what are they?

In the age when people live and die by the pen,

What are a few more words?

If I say “Reconciliation,”

What does that even mean any more?

If you say that you've loved me for millennia

And that eternity is where we belong

It just sounds like you're being melodramatic.

Nobody believes in forever anymore.

True love has been cancelled

Because it brings us shame.”

His tone shifted and he crooned and called, still looking at me.

“If I asked you to trust me, would you spit on me?

If I said life gets better, would you spurn me.

If I offered you hope, would call me a con man,

Seeking to tear your tattered defenses down

And leave you exposed?

Just let me light a light, a tiny candle.

Smile through your tears.

The flame of faithfulness

Never really goes out.

I will find you at the end of the world,

And I will save you

With simple, honest, frail, and trembling words.”

There was a smattering of applause, and immediately the noisy chatter sprang up as if the audience was a little put off by this odd, extemporaneous, cryptic, little poem. However I was bawling. I hid my weeping behind a napkin, and nobody was paying me any attention anyway. The host named the next performer and Teddy slid back into his chair with a grimace.

“It wasn't what I had planned,” he said to me as if he was apologizing. “I just thought you needed to hear that.”

“Thank you!” I gasped. “Do you do this for all the brokenhearted, middle aged ladies you meet?”

“If I said yes, would you laugh at me?” He winced. “I came from a broken home. You remind me of my mother.”

“I bet she was a really special lady.” I muttered. “And very lucky to have you for a son.”

He reached across the table and took my fingers in one of those unusual hands. He pried open my clenched fist and removed the wadded up paper.

He shook his head and clucked at me, “You don't need this. You don't want to die. You just want to be faithful to a man who is faithful to you. Love will find you, when you least expect it. Just wait. Can you do that? For me?”

I nodded, and he patted my palm.

“That's good.”

I crawled into the cold sheets that night, my head full of memories I hadn't recalled since childhood. I was a woman once. I had thoughts and feelings and beliefs. I had opinions and desires and I had plans. Somehow that had gotten hijacked by circumstances or else by a parasite, a bed bug of a marriage that just left me itchy and violated. It wasn't about being alone, or being together. It was about being a person verses being a puppet. It was about not being used and manipulated. Single wasn't a curse. It was healing. I had promised Teddy I would wait for love to find me, but I wasn't going to wait to be myself again. I was going to start that right away.

I got up, and I took the old wedding ring out of it's velvet bag and set it beside my diary. I signed my name, Ms. Emily Charlotte Granger. my maiden name. After a long trip to outer space I had finally come home.

Short Story

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Gentle JoJo Fletcher

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